Thursday, May 13, 2010

Recipe -- Beef Turnip Soup

Dear Korean,

I am looking for a recipe for a Korean soup that's got a clear broth and is made with turnips. Do you know what I am talking about?

Amy P.

The Korean sure does. Here is the recipe for Korean style beef turnip soup. (소고기 무국.)


Korean turnip (무), which looks like this:

Beef -- head meat flank (양지머리)
Korean leek (대파), which looks like this:
Pressed garlic
Soup soy sauce (국간장)
Sesame oil
Salt, pepper

Notes about the ingredient -- The highlight of this soup is Korean turnip, which adds a distinctively clean taste to the beef broth. You absolutely must get a Korean turnip for this dish -- otherwise it's not the same food. There might be room for some compromise with other ingredients. Koreans generally use head meat flank for making beef broth, but a generic beef stew meat will do in a pinch. If Korean leek is hard to find, regular scallion is serviceable. For seasoning, freshly pressed garlic is almost always better than any other form of garlic, but minced garlic from a jar is ok if that peeling and pressing garlic is too much of a pain. "Soup soy sauce" is different from your regular sushi restaurant soy sauce -- it has darker color and much stronger flavor. Regular soy sauce is serviceable, but it is the small things that will push a dish from "good enough" to "excellent". (Or, in the Korean's mind, from "incorrect" to "correct".)


- Soak the beef in water until the meat bleeds out.
- Cut the turnips into large chunks. Slice it first into an inch-thick rings, then quarter the rings.
- Cut the leeks into large chunks, about an inch long.
- Put cut leek and pressed garlic (adjust amount according to preference) into a pot. Add water and boil in high heat.
- When the broth comes to boil, add the beef and cut turnips. Then lower the heat and simmer, until the beef is fully cooked and the turnips are soft. (Note: adding the beef in cold water to boil muddies the broth. For the clear broth, the beef needs to be without any blood, and then added when the water is boiling.)
- Take out the beef and turnip. Shred the beef with hand along the grain. Cut the cooked turnip into bite-sized slices. Season the beef and cut turnip with salt, pepper and sesame oil. Adjust the amount of condiments according to preference.
- Put only the broth to boil one more time. Season with salt and soup soy sauce. Watch out against over-using soup soy sauce; it has a very dark color, and might make the soup appear unappetizingly dark if overused. (Remember that the whole point of this soup is to have a clean flavor -- the looks must complement that.) Rely on salt for most of the salty flavor, and use the soup soy sauce for umami.
- In a bowl, add the seasoned meat and turnip with the broth. Serve with steamed rice.

When finished, the final product should look like this (except this one cut the leeks smaller than what the Korean is used to -- which does not make a big difference other than aesthetics):

맛있게 드세요. (Bon appetit!)

-EDIT- Translation error was pointed out by commenter Ji Soo. 

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. I say pour ketchup and sriracha sauce!

    Hahaha... just an inside joke between TheKorean and me.

  2. 양지머리 is actually brisket, not head meat.

  3. As it turns out, 양지머리 is flank. Brisket is 차돌배기. But at any rate, the Korean was wrong, and the correction was made.

  4. I hate to beat a dead horse, but how do you know 양지머리 is flank and not brisket?
    Every dictionary I can find translates 양지머리 to brisket and 차돌박이 to a specific type of 양지머리.

  5. Those Korean turnips look suspiciously like the Northern Chinese turnips and the leaks also look suspiciously like spring onions too.

    Then again I suppose there is some mixing (as one of my Chinese friends pretends to be called Kim and runs a korean restaurant)

  6. Then again, some Chinese historian believes that Goguryeo is a northern Chinese state and not one of the three kingdom of Korea.

  7. I don't just that we collectively managed to move our fences slowly over the past 1000 years to completely annex the whole region

  8. Hey Chinese guy,

    Sometimes I wish that China splintered just like the Roman Empire so the only ones proudly calling themselves "Han Chinese" would have been just in the Shangdong Peninsula... Thus, we wouldn't have to worry about 1.3 billion people claiming they originated every damn thing in Asia.

    Alas, the barbarian's work in China always seemed incomplete.

  9. @Edward:

    Heh I'm not Han Chinese if that bothers you so much.

    Anyhow you may get your wish as China I think will fragment in the next 10-20 years as big cracks are showing, a huge one was papered over in 1989 and the crack has come back even bigger, and yet more are appearing.

  10. It looks similar to the version my mother makes. Unfortunately, despite having grown up with it my whole life, I've never come to like 무 (or any type of radish, really). While I'll eat it when I'm hungry, my appetite dies shortly after smelling it.

  11. 무 is definitely not a 'turnip'. It is a variety of radish, the same species as the little western radish. This is pretty clear when looking at features of the whole growing plant.

    Turnip is in a different genus.

  12. BTW, both Chinese cabbage (bok choi) and mizuna/peppergrass/whatever it's called in Korean (dictionary just says 다닥냉이무리의 식물-샐러드용 야채 -- definitely common in Korean Italian restaurants) are cultivars of the same wild species as the turnip.

  13. Thank you so much for posting the recipe! My son is very excited that we'll now be able to make this at home. It's his favorite soup at the Korean restaurant, who by the way told us is it was "turnip" soup. Probably to avoid the whole American radish vs. Korean radish explanation.
    Amy P.

  14. LOL..

    you are so farking "Korean" with that "correct" notion.

    More power to you, though that idea bothers me.

  15. has anyone made large batches of this soup and frozen it?


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